what's making me happy this week 11.18.14: what we have in our pockets, a new spell and quiet time

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photos:
1) a gift of daffodils in january
2) my new sweater
3) writer etgar keret, illusration by erhan cihangiroğlu from the etgar keret facebook page
(can you tell i’m lacking photos this week?)

Two cold nights ago I was leaving the grocery store, after a frenetic day of work. I saw a man sitting alone in his car, talking on his phone, in a vacant part of the shopping center parking lot. I instantly thought, “I wish that was me.”

The thought seemed at once weird and kind of startling to me, especially since the man did not look particularly comfortable. He seemed too large for his overcoat, and for his car. But his car looked warm and he wasn’t rushing around in the dark. He was just sitting, doing one thing. Talking on the phone.

I’m in a bit of a funk. I can’t get on top of life. I’m usually pretty good at shaking off such a mood, but not so much the past couple of weeks. Maybe reviewing the bright spots in the week will help.

So here’s what made me happy this week.

1. The short story, “What Do We Have in our Pockets?” by Etgar Keret
This is a quick read, and even quicker listen (less than 7 minutes).
I heard it on the Selected Shorts podcast read, perfectly, by the late David Rakoff. You can listen here. It starts at the very end of the podcast, around -06:43
You can also read it here or see a short film based on this story and entered into 2013 Sundance film festival here.

But please listen to David Rakoff first. He’s better. The best.

2. Music from the film Walking and Talking. (I liked, but did not love this Nicole Holofcener film, maybe because I had just watched Frances Ha the day before. Basically the same film. Also liked, but did not love Frances Ha.)

Anyway, the music made me happy particularly the opening song, Billy Bragg’s She’s Got a New Spell.

3. Meloncholy music…it makes me happy to have such unhappy music when I need it. Two songs I heard for the first time this week, and really like, are Låpsley’s, “Station”, btw she is both the high and low voices and Iron & Wine‬‪ – The Trapeze Swinger‬. (NPR’s music editor Stephen Thompson has mentioned this song over and over on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He weeps every time he hears it. So finally I looked it up. No weeping for me, but I do love it.)

4. My new Air-o-Swiss humidifier. (I’m not getting compensated to advertise for this or any product). I love it for it’s clean lines and functional design and because, now that I have it running in my office, I no longer feel like I’m turing to dust.

5. A pot of daffodils I received on a gloomy day. Sitting in my office window, still in bloom. If you are living in a cold grey climate, please go get yourself or someone else a pot of daffodils. They make me hopeful, and happy, every time I see them.

6. My daughter was giddy on her first day of her cadaver dissection class this week. I talked to her after class and asked her how it went. She gushed, “It was amazing! I was up to my elbow in leg!” Yesterday I picked her up on campus after a study session for another class. She sat down in the car with a blissfull look on her face, leaned her head against the window and sighed, “I’m in love.” I said, “With?” She sighed again, “Organic chemistry.” It’s a pretty amazing to see your kid find a passion. I don’t think it happens to everyone. I’m still working out mine…

7. This sweater, in emerald green, I bought on sale from Boden. (Though it is already pilling which makes me unhappy.)

8. Getting up on this Saturday morning before everyone else. I suspect it is better than sitting in a car, in the dark, by myself in a grocery store parking lot. A cup of coffee, melancholy music and a quiet house all to myself to plan out my busy day: it may be all I need to hit the reset button on this mood.

Hoping you have found some happiness and a quiet place to think this week.

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what's making me happy this week 10.20.13: the vince guaraldi trio, the house dog's grave, and a dance off
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photos:
1) my daughter’s studies
2) an accusatory look from my dog
3) a thank you that warmed my heart

September through mid-December I have a program that runs on Sundays, so I work six days a week. I leave work at 2:30pm several days throughout the week, but that doesn’t seem to make up for my missed weekend day. I developed this Sunday program eight years ago and it is near and dear to my heart. Still, by mid October, this one day weekend begins to get old.

I miss being home. I miss getting things organized for the week, accomplishing home projects and being around my family. I try not to think about it too much.

Luckily there is much in the world to keep me distracted and smiling…

1. A heartfelt thank-you and note and brownies from an amazing young woman.

2. Walking home from work on sunny fall days, kicking up dry leaves as I go.

3. My daughter is on FIRE about her classes this term.

4. The whacking sound the walnuts make when they fall 30 feet from their mother tree and hit the sidewalk. Strangely satisfying. (downside: one hit my little Finny on the back last week and he spun around and looked at me with an accusatory look on his face.)

5. Jesse Thorn’s interview with Nicole Holofcener on his Bullseye podcast. Holofcener is the writer and director of the movie Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener and James Galdofini (love all, particularly the women). I loved several things about this interview 1) I love that when Holfcener and Louis-Dreyfus met, they talked about how much they love their children and the heartbreak of their kids going off to college …I get these women 2) the interview was NOT about the death of James Gadofini, thank you for that choice Jesse Thorn 3) Thorn focused on the female writer/director and the lead female character and on women and comedy, again thank you Jesse Thorn. Can’t wait to see the film.

(p.s. did you know that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s name is pronounced “Lewy” Drefus? Yes, you did? And so did everyone else?)

6. Jesse Thorn’s Bullseye podcast.
I have only previously known Thorn as Bailiff Jesse on the Judge John Hodgeman podcast and was happy to finally listen to his Bullseye podcast. Thorne has a sensitivity that is almost as startling as his outbursts of laughter (at times, seriously startling…and endearing…evidenced at 12:48 in the clip linked above). Looking forward to listening to more.

7. Cast your Fate to the Wind, The Vince Guaraldi Trio:

8. Just so you won’t mistake me for someone with excellent taste in music, this song is also making me happy:
Wake Me Up When Its All Over
It gives me that same temporary jolt of energy that I get when I eat pure sugar candy like Smarties and Nerds because it is the musical equivalent.
I will hate it a month from now.

9. This poem posted on a friend’s FB wall. It made me tear up, which is why I love poetry. So few words to access so much emotion.
The House Dog’s Grave
by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

10. Jimmy Fallon’s improv dance off with the actor Sam Rockwell—sweet moves.
(I saw Rockewell’s summer film, The Way, Way Back. It was okay. I loved him in Moon, directed by Duncan Jones, who is the son of??? Correct! Davie Bowie!)

A good week to you!

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<img src="https://floramargaret.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/092313venusflytrap.jpg&quot; class="size-full" alt="whats making me happy this week 09.22.13: JUDGE john hodgeman, aging and a sad song” />

photos:
1) the venus fly trap my nephew gave me last mother’s day…it sits in my office window in it’s plastic container not eating flies as there are no flies to be eaten. someone suggested i put a piece of banana in there to attract fruit flies. not sure about that…
2) working merch at the the ark last weekend…it was a slow night… respect to a band that puts out vinyl…
3) taking refuge from the pouring rain on the front porch of lexi’s toybox

Saturday night my husband and daughter and I were all crabby to each other, resulting in cancelled plans to see a late movie together and my husband driving off to hang out at Barnes and Noble on his own just to get away from us.

Our simple dishwasher replacement, which we have been waiting for the right financial time to replace, has turned out to be not so simple. The new dishwasher, with the exact same measurements as our old dishwasher, at least on paper, won’t fit under our old countertop. Sigh. Do we figure out a way to rig it, or do we do things right, tear out the entire floor (which appears to includes at least 2 layers of subflooring sandwiched between 2 layers of linoleum…nice) and start all over again? At what expense? And who has the time?!

My son was up until 1am studying for an AP Chemistry test and my daughter up until 4am studying for an Organic Chemistry test…

Chemistry, Schmemistry. We are a mess.

But really, we’re okay, of course.

These are such little problems on the scale of world problems. Our kids don’t go hungry. We are just fine.

Here are some little things that help me to stay just fine during our more trying moments this week:

1.
the Judge John Hodgeman podcast. You know John Hodgeman…”I’m a PC…” He is silly, and a geek and extremely smart and funny and, it turns out, a very fair judge. I listen to his podcast while loading (and unloading and loading…) the dishwasher and giggle and giggle. My son has Hodgeman’s books, The Areas of My Expertise, and More Information Than You Require, but he has not listened to his podcast and it drives my son crazy when I refer to him as Judge John Hodgemen. My son insists, “It’s JUST John Hodgemen! You do not add “judge” in front of his name. He is not a real judge.” So of course I say JUDGE John Hodgeman all the time now. We call it “poking the bear” in our house. I feel like we should petition JUDGE Hodgeman for a ruling on this dispute.

2. The movie Austenland. The reviews were mediocre at best, but it appealed to my odd sense of humor. I, and truly the entire small crowd at the Michigan Theater, laughed out loud throughout. Bret (Brit?) Mckenzie from Flight of the Conchords is in it as is Jennifer Coolidge and Keri Russell. The ending was meh, and there was one part of unfinished business that I didn’t like, having to do with a seemingly repeat old man sex offender that they made a joke of…is this funny? But still, I would pay to see the movie again just for the 70 minutes of silliness prior to the ending. True Austen lovers, of which I am not, may like the ending; not quite predictable, but ultimately uber (grotesquely?) romantic.

3. Sometimes I look in the mirror and am reminded of that movie Freaky Friday where the (very young and adorable) Lindsay Lohan character wakes up and finds she has turned into her mother, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Upon seeing herself in the mirror she cries, “”Oh! I’m old! I’m like the cryptkeeper! Ahhhh!”
But when I read this “Dear Polly” letter for advice, which was relinked to a blog I read (the Hairpin), it made me so glad to be old and aging and beyond all of this dating/boy/sex and what does it all mean nonsense and uncertainty. Oh the clarity and wisdom age brings to some areas of life…not all, but some.

4. A friend had a FB post about an upcoming concert for the band Devotchka. I forgot about this band…they did the soundtrack for the film “Little Miss Sunshine.” Loved the soundtrack and loved the film.
When you get home from work, turn up the volume and join me in a glass of wine and a dance around the kitchen while making dinner, because even if the research says it’s not possible, we can and do multitask:
Till the End of Time by Devotchka

5. Now turn your volume down. Saw Colin Hay here in AA a couple of weeks ago. Such a great show. He is quite a story teller …he told funny and sweet stories about his father who he referred to a “good daddy.” He later explained that he had been singing in show in Scotland when his father died in Australia, and he never got to say goodbye. If your heart is hurting a little now at that thought, just wait until you hear this song.…He didn’t sing this song during the concert and I had never heard it before my daughter found it this week and emailed it to me.
Dear Father by Colin Hay

All of that and so much more was keeping me just fine this past week…and here is Monday again.

Monday…groah…ah well, another week to watch vigilantly for the good stuff! Right?!
xox

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what's making me happy this week 08.11.13:

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photos
1. vintage saab station wagon
2. Finnegan enjoying his clean sheets
3. drying basil

The week had its ups and downs, moments of contentment and moments of discontent.

Some of the little things that made me happy this week:

1. Oh making me happy is this vintage Saab station wagon I saw in the shopping center parking lot. The owner told me it has a rear-facing pull down back seat, like this.

2. Finnegan makes me happy because he is cute, but he also annoys me. He would not move when I was making the bed, so I had to try to work around him, and the clean sheets were not clean for long…so much dog hair. Ugh.

3. Freezing basil makes me happy. I wash it, pat it dry with paper towels, then air dry it on waxed paper on a cookie sheet. When it’s dry, I roll up the wax paper and put it in a plastic bag and freeze for a day in the winter when I am in desperate need of some frozen summer.

4. The AV club’s undercover video series make me happy. They put together a list of 100 songs and invited bands to pick a song from the list to cover. I love the unexpected pairings.

Who knew a Journey song could sound so…true and lovely. Thank you Clem Snide for this version of Journey’s Faithfully (except not for the whistling. No thanks for that. Ouch.)

Forward to 1:28 in the video to get past the jibber jabber.

Again, I’m sorry about the whistling at the end of the song and the way the whistlers crawl into the shot to take a Tim Tebow pose and whistle off key while earnestly looking into each other’s eyes. What?! No. Nope.

5. I also love the Clientele covering MIA’s Paper Planes in the same series. (I like MIAs version too). No need to skip the jibber jabber on this one. Alasdair MacLean is adorable, as is his humility.

6. Did you read Geeorg Saunder’s Commencement Speech at Syracuse University, recently published in the New York Times? The basic message: err in the direction of kindness.

Have you read him? When he was on the cover the NYT magazine being hailed as the greatest american writer, I was skeptical. So I read Saunder’s, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. I am still unwilling to say Saunder’s is the best American writer. Not because he is or isn’t, just because…who can say? Who gets to decide? But I am willing to say, he’s really good. Read him.

7. I love learning new kitchen tips. I never knew this easy way to cut basil into strips for topping my pasta and pizza: chiffonade Mais oui!

And I like this method for cleaning a cast iron skillet.

8. You have likely seen this already, but for those who haven’t, have fun being amazed at Roomba Shark Cat: http://www.tastefullyoffensive.com/2013/08/shark-cat-cleans-kitchen.html

Hope these help you ride out your own moments of discontent this week!

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08.03.13 whats making me happy this week

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photos:
1. first tomatoes
2. photo my daughter used for a screen saver…on my unsuspecting husband’s laptop.
3. finnegan cuddling up with our smelly shoes
4. my sister’s handwritten (love) recipe and the last of her bean and rice salad
5. cornflake marshmallow cookies
6. hibiscus
7. mid century library staircase
8. dr. who phonebox cake

What a week! Home from a trip to visit my brother’s family in Virginia, my son’s 16th birthday and too short visit from my dear friend Cathy. In addition to all of that BIG happiness, here are some little things that are making me happy thing week:

1. Our first tomatoes from our garden make me happy!

2. My daughter, who makes me laugh a lot, makes me happy. (Also we fight a lot.) You can see (above) the kind of desktop photos she puts on any unattended laptops when she has the chance. She was recently sitting across from me as we both “worked” on our laptops. She laughed aloud and said ‘This meme reminds me of you.‘I tried to login to my iPad, turns out it was an etch a sketch and I don’t even own an iPad, also, I’m out of wine.’”
Do you think I’m a good role model?

3. My puppy. He likes to sleep among shoes. I think because they smell like us. Lucky for him, my family provides ample opportunity for him to sleep among smelly shoes!

4. Summer salads. I love them for their use of produce, freshness and mix of flavors. Three of our staples include my sister’s bean and rice salad pictured above, Giada De Laurentiis’ Mediterranean Farro Salad and this panzenlla salad.

I also tried this tomato and watermelon salad from shutterbean.com and it was like eating a big bowl of summer!

5. Speaking of shutterban recipes…tracy’s Cornflake Marshmallow Cookies are pretty amazing. In fact they are too amazing. It will be awhile before I can make these again because they are so darn good, both baked and raw! I made one batch one night and then immediately had to make another the next day and then I had to make myself stop. So, so yummy.

6.The hibiscus are finally blooming in this part of the world.

7. Libraries make me happy, particularly this mid-century modern one pictured above, where I spend my time when my son volunteers at a zoo about an hour away from our house.

8. Comedian Jim Gaffigan. We just saw him at Meadowbrook Theater, near my mother’s house. He has two stand up specials on Nextflix and just published a book called, “Dad is Fat.”

9. The Dr. Who phone box cake above that my daughter made for her friend who loves Dr. Who.

When my daughter delivered it, her friend’s 11 year old brother, who loves my daughter, asked her, “Wanna look at baby animal pictures with me?” Yep. That’s how we grow our men in Ann Arbor. Love.

10. And speaking of growing men. I am excited by this new project by Jennifer Siebel The Mask You Live In, about the very restrictive and destructive models of manhood that our society presents to our sons. If you haven’t seen Jen Siebel’s Miss Representation, about girls in the media, please see it. It’s not just for women, or parents of daughters. We showed this on our campus last year to a large crowd of male and female students and there was clapping and cheering at the end by all genders. See it. Please. It has a hopeful ending!

11. These capri yoga/active wear pants my sister sent to me. At first I thought they were Lulu Lemon, because my sis is all about Lulu Lemon and because they were so quality…but no, they are from Old Navy! = affordable! I love them. She says they are her favs.

12. Something about the song Royales by Lordes makes me happy…it’s a great workout jam. Turn it up…even louder. I know I will be sick of it in a month…

13. Also this song, We Are Flowers sung by Eef Barzelay from the band Clem Snide).

14. It makes me happy when a story stops me in my tracks, transports me, and then haunts me for days after, as happened when I heard Ron Rush read his short story, “Something Rich and Strange,” from his collection of short stories Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Happy week to you! Watch Jim Gaffigan on Netflix, he will make you laugh!

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Whats making me happy this week 04.05.13: boy shorts, dad guitars, and fluorescent adolescence

photos:
1. old dogs, as good as they get
2. cowboy songs
3. singer, from tom huffey’s “mirror” series

I sure would like to know what’s making you happy this week!

In the meantime, here’s what’s making me happy this week:

1. Mani/pedi AND I used a LivingSocial coupon. Happy!

2. NPRs Story Corps podcast. If you ever need your faith in humanity restored, listen. They are short, too short, but I am so moved by these I cry at…every…single…story. Does that make me happy? Yes, it does.

3. Body by Gap boy short undies that came in the mail this week. Yes indeed, new pretty underwear makes me happy! TMI? I know it makes other women happy. Does new underwear ever make men happy?

4. Cowboy songs by the Cactus Blossoms. I volunteered at the Ark this week and had no idea who the performers were. These fresh-faced brothers were the warm-up band. They had me at the first few notes of their sweet cowboy harmonies.

5. Not sure if Tom Hussey’s “Mirror” series makes me happy, but they make me something…introspective? This is how I see myself when I look in the mirror, so much younger than what the world sees. In my mirror, I’m still wearing braces.

6. My son reminded me of the Dad guitar scene from Flight of the Conchords. If you haven’t seen Flight of the Conchords, you will likely not find this funny…But you should get the FotC DVDs…really.

7. I’m finally reading George Saunders. Not “Tenth of December,” according to the New York Times, “the best book you’ll read this year” -which I think was last year. Instead I’m reading “Civilwarland in Bad Decline,” as recommended by Glen Weldon from Pop Culture Happy Hour. I’m happy that I am finally reading the celebrated Saunders. My name finally came up on the library wait list. Is the book making me happy? No. I do get why Saunders is so fêted, but his satire is so close to the edge in my mind, that to me, the stories are equal parts funny, smart and terrifying.

8. I watched Skyfall and Casino Royale with my boy (and wrote about it).

9. My boy and spouse are spending the week in DC and are having a great time! I’m smiling right now just thinking about it. And very soon I will be hitting the road to visit my dear daughter for the weekend, also making happy!

10. The Humans of New York FB feed always makes me happy, but it’s this poem by a student, Fluorescent Adolescence, I found on HONY this week that I thought was pretty fantastic. I wish I had the author’s name.
Sometimes youth is not wasted on the young.


Am I complete music moron for not knowing of Django Reinhardt? Was it finally removing the Hansen’s “Mmmbop” from my ipod (don’t judge) that prepared a place my brain cells to receive the message of Django Reinhardt?

Django Reihhardt. Never heard of him…until about a month ago the brother of my good friend had a FB post celebrating the life and music of Django Reinhardt. That entire family has been seeping musical sense into my head since I was a kid (e.g Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Bob Dylan). So when I saw the post, I paid attention.

Then I started seeing ads for the Terantino film, “Django Unchained.”—what? Django? That name again.

A few weeks later I was volunteering at the Ark for the John Jorgenson Quintet performance. I had never heard of them, but had the night free to volunteer. I read the description, “gypsy jazz in the style of Django Reinhardt.” Django Reinhardt AGAIN!

I was later describing the John Jorgenson Quintet to my father–in-law and asked him if he knew of Django Reinhardt. Of course he did, as did my hipster younger sister, and then, overhearing the conversation, my 15 year old son played Djano Reinhardt for us on his iTouch—because of course he has Django Reinhardt on his iTouch. He also walks upright. Unlike some of us.

What can I say. I’m happy to be evolving.

I do now truly enjoy Django Reinhardt and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. Don’t tell anyone, but I like John Jorgenson better.

Who knows how I’ll feel once I remove Hannah Montana’s “Wherever I Go” from my iPod.